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Nylon and Bombs

, 304 pages

8 halftones, 11 line drawings

December 2006



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Nylon and Bombs

DuPont and the March of Modern America

What do nylon stockings and atomic bombs have in common? DuPont. The chemical firm of DuPont de Nemours pioneered the development of both nylon and plutonium, playing an important role in the rise of mass consumption and the emergence of the notorious "military-industrial complex." In this fascinating account of the lives and careers of Du Pont’s chemical engineers, Pap A. Ndiaye deftly illustrates the contribution of industry to the genesis of a dominant post–World War II "American model" connecting prosperity with security.

The consumer and military dimensions of twentieth-century American history are often studied separately. Ndiaye reunites them by examining Du Pont's development of nylon, which symbolized a new way of life, and plutonium, which was synonymous with annihilation. Reflecting on the experiences and contributions of the company's engineers and physicists, Ndiaye traces Du Pont's transformation into one of the corporate models of American success.

Pap A. Ndiaye is an associate professor of U.S. history at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

"Fresh because of its innovative approach to the history of DuPont... Stimulating book."

"The reader who is well versed in the field will... gain insight into the significant contributions made by chemical engineers and into the interaction between technological developments and broad social, cultural, and political changes."

" Nylon and Bombs will no doubt be put to great use in the emerging field of engineering studies."

"A major contribution to both the history of technology and business history. It contributes to our understanding of the development of the professional, managerial class, one of the key aspects of the emergence of the middle class in twentieth-century America. A highly original work."

"A very important book that ought to be read by all chemical engineers who seek a broad understanding of the history of their profession."

"Ndiaye makes a worthwhile contribution to the literature and opens up many questions with which specialists will want to engage."

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